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1/5/97 - 16:40 ± 96/89 ± WENG ± 89_2 ± SueH

World Englishes, Vol 16, No. 1, pp. 3±26, 1997. 0883±2919

Your language, my language or English? The potential language choice
in communication among nationals of the European Union


ABSTRACT: Data on foreign language learning and the ability to take part in a conversation using a
foreign language were collected by Eurobarometer in 1994 from representative samples of the population
in 12 member states of the European Union (n = 13,029). Drawing on these data, the authors observe that
knowledge of foreign languages has increased considerably in Europe in the last 40 years, thereby
improving the potential for communication among Europeans. They note that the three most learned
and spoken foreign languages, English, French, and German, are all expanding. However, English is by far
the language which has progressed the most, which raises the question of the eventual emergence of English
as a lingua franca. The authors use the representative data from the Eurobarometer study, differentiated
by country and by age group, to estimate the probability that a particular language will be used when
nationals of two different countries belonging to two different age groups (15±24, and 55 and older)
interact. Some sociolinguistic implications are examined in the conclusion.


Major changes have occurred in Europe over the last 40 years with respect to the
acquisition and use of foreign languages. This is apparent on at least two levels: the
development of a political and a popular discourse around the importance of foreign
language learning, and an actual increase in the opportunities to learn and use foreign
languages, be it in a regular school context, in private language schools, or through any
other opportunities provided through professional or cultural activities or tourism (Labrie,
The benefits of these changes have not been distributed equally among all European
languages. According to the political and the popular discourse, English is the language
which has benefited the most from the increasing interest in foreign languages. Some
French observers, for instance, have noted that in Italy and Portugal, French, which was
the foreign language that the older generations were most proficient in, is no longer spoken
by the younger generations.
As well, some surveys have confirmed the hegemony of English in the expanding market
for foreign languages. For instance, Storti (1989) who had been sponsored by the French
Government to prepare a survey on foreign language learning in 11 member states of the
European Community (all, except France), concluded that in more than half of the EC
countries, one foreign language was mandatory. With the exception of the two English-
speaking countries, English had the lead as the first foreign language (Storti, 1989: 8).
Storti comments:
Much is being said about multilingualism in Europe. For the time being, it is bilingualism (mother
tongue plus English) which is winning. In Denmark, in Spain, in Greece, in Italy, in the
Netherlands, in Portugal, English is the first foreign language learned. It is ahead in Belgium
and in Luxembourg, after the different national languages. (Storti, 1989: 10, trans.)

*Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto, Centre de recherche en eÂducation franco-
ontarienne, 252 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5S 1V6.

# Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 1997, 108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JF, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.

1/5/97 - 16:41 ± 96/89 ± WENG ± 89_2 ± SueH

4 Normand Labrie and Carsten Quell

This article will make use of data collected in 1994 by a Eurobarometer survey from
representative samples of the population in 12 member states of the European Union on
foreign language learning and the ability to take part in a conversation using a foreign
language. Drawing on these data, we intend to verify whether, as political and popular
discourse and research suggest, knowledge of foreign languages has increased in Europe in
the last 40 years and, if so, which languages have benefited the most from this change and
to what extent. We also intend to verify if English is the language which has progressed the
most. In order to determine if English really is emerging as a lingua franca, the
representative data from the Eurobarometer study, differentiated by country and by age
group, will be used to estimate the probability that a particular language will be used when
nationals of two different countries from two different age groups (15±24, and 55 and
older) interact.


A foreign language has been defined by DabeÁne (1994: 28, trans.) as `the mother tongue
of a group of people, the teaching of which can be offered by the institutions of another
group for whom it is not the mother tongue.' Referring to Weinrich (1989), she notes that
there are degrees in the foreignness of the languages, which she calls in French `degreÂs de
xeÂnite.' Degrees of foreignness are determined by three types of distance: material, cultural,
and linguistic distance. A small degree of foreignness can facilitate the learning of a foreign
language but is not enough to explain why some languages appear to be more attractive
than others.
Another concept very close to that of degree of foreignness is the concept known as
`language of proximity.' This concept has been put forward by supporters of the reciprocal
learning of `neighbouring' languages, such as languages belonging to the same linguistic
family (Romance languages), or languages spoken on both sides of a national border (e.g.,
German in Alsace). However, `proximity' is by no means the primary determinant in
foreign language learning. The prestige of a language could be seen as a more decisive
factor than the `degree of foreignness' or `proximity' when attempting to explain why some
languages appear to be more popular than others for foreign language learners. By prestige
we refer to a conglomerate of factors which, taken together, can lead to the popular
recognition of a given language as having symbolic value. These factors include, but are
not limited to, the existence of an internationally recognized literature in the language, use
of the language in science and politics, number of native speakers of the language, etc.
Language prestige seems to be closely linked to language spread, which can be defined as
`the phenomenon whereby uses and users of a language increase' (Cooper, 1982: vii). This
phenomenon implies the spread of a language among populations as a mother tongue, but
also as a foreign language (Laforge and McConnell, 1990).1
Multilingualism, as it is practised in Europe, appears to favour only the most prestigious
languages. This can be explained mainly through the simple principle of supply and
demand, i.e., languages offered within the school curriculum and languages selected by the
learners. Prestigious languages have benefited most from the general popularity of multi-
lingualism. Even within the context of the European Institutions which are legally required
to respect the equality of all the languages of European Union member countries, only
English and French are used to a significant extent, as the work by Quell (1993, 1995) on
the European Commission has shown. This factual inequality also extends to EU-funded

# Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 1997

The survey questions that are asked of representa- tive samples of the population in each member state are identical except for the fact that they are translated into the respective official language of each country. not to mention less widely-spoken languages (Grin. All graphs contained in this article are based on the numbers provided by Eurobarometer except for the calculations on the probability of English. Druesne (1994) indicated that of a total of 1. my language or English? 5 programs. It must be pointed out that the questions on language which figure so prominently in this article comprise only three out of almost 30 questions that were asked by Euro- barometer. the European Commission has commissioned public opinion surveys in order to assess public awareness and public attitudes towards various aspects of European integration. and the well-organized programs for English language teaching contribute to the dominant role played by English (Phillipson. 46 percent of students from Spain chose to go to the United Kingdom. 1993). Culture. such as Greek or Danish. For instance. Audiovisual of the European Commission. A brief overview of the data presented here was published as part of the publication Eurobarometer 41 (European Commission. 1994). French or German being used in communication among Europeans. Communication. Italy. 1991). It appears that the other languages which are spoken in EU countries. 1994: 55±56). their vigorous cultural policies. 1987: 124. This unit does not carry out the actual surveys itself but is responsible for organizing the contracting. 72 percent of German students went either to France. The data we are using for the purposes of this article were collected by Eurobarometer. 32 percent of students from the United Kingdom chose to go to Spain and 22 percent opted for France. the # Blackwell Publishers Ltd. the United Kingdom or the Netherlands. 1997 . the United Kingdom or Spain. It has been demonstrated.1/5/97 . 77 percent of students from France chose to go either to Germany. that the economic power of Anglo-Saxon countries. even those having the official status as national languages. In this respect. do not attract significant numbers of students (Haberland and Henriksen. financial management and methodological control of the data obtained from the polling agencies in each of the member states. Phillipson and Skutnabb-Kangas. We have made use of the published data as well as charts sent to us by the Eurobarometer unit detailing results for countries by age group. 1994. THE EUROBAROMETER DATA Since 1973. DabeÁne. English can be considered to be a relatively powerful language (Ammon. 1994. Eurobarometer is a unit within the Directorate-General for Information.897 students who participated in the Lingua Program in 1990±1991. It can therefore be concluded that some languages are in a better position to fulfil a vehicular function as a foreign language (Calvet. for instance. Truchot. 1994. 1992). Domaschnew. finally. This paper will examine the following questions: How has the learning and speaking of foreign languages in the European Union developed over the last 40 years? Which languages have benefited most from this development? How do the various countries differ with respect to knowledge of foreign languages? How do countries whose language is widely learned and spoken differ from those with less prestigious languages? How does language spread affect different age groups? What is the probability that a particular foreign language will be used as a lingua franca in transnational interaction? 3.16:41 ± 96/89 ± WENG ± 89_2 ± SueH Your language. These three questions elicited the mother tongue of the respondent. 1994) whose role as a lingua franca is being increasingly confirmed through a general process of language spread.

we are at least very confident that they were elicited and analysed in a professional manner.64 (0. Sport is usually viewed as an essential tool to further communication. compared to 61 percent of young Germans. extensive efforts being made across Europe to bring ordinary citizens together through the twinning of towns and cities.56 (0. Take young Danes for example: 64 percent of them indicated they could speak German well enough to participate in a conversation. Many of the team members will go. this is not the only choice. French and German. but simply as a result of their being part of the sports club. national weighting was used to adjust the survey data to known population information in each country. urban and rural areas of each member state with the interviews being conducted face-to-face in the homes of each respondent.5 For reasons of space. The probability that English will be used is then calculated at 0.15 and German at 0. for example. English runs a very close second in terms of possible language choice.92). What. a consideration of all 12 countries was not possible. is the likelihood that English will be used between them? Of young Danes. which allows us to draw conclusions based on highly valid data. for example.3 The reason why we chose to limit our presentation to only three languages which we termed major foreign languages is somewhat arbitrary: we consider those languages which across all age groups and across the EU more than 5 percent of respondents had indicated they could use in a conversation.16:41 ± 96/89 ± WENG ± 89_2 ± SueH 6 Normand Labrie and Carsten Quell languages s/he had learned and the languages in which s/he felt able to carry out a conversation (excluding the mother tongue). France. the accuracy of which must be tested in empirical research on actual encounters. for example. Many Europeans who choose to live in another European country or go there frequently will obviously learn the local language rather than rely on the indirectness of a second language.61 6 0. Let us assume. In calculating the results. that a junior football team from France visits its partner team in Germany as part of such a municipal partnership.1/5/97 . Though the language data are not as extensive as we would have hoped. the fact is that.2 We wish to emphasize strongly that these probabilities are merely theoretical calculations based on the hypothesis that mother tongue and foreign language knowledge play a prominent role in determining language choice in real-life encounters. If they encounter young Germans (100 percent of whom have German as their mother tongue). 92 percent speak English. the probability that German will be used is calculated at 0. We then decided to exclude # Blackwell Publishers Ltd. The survey was carried out in metropolitan.11). not because they have studied French. in spite of the fact that English is a second language for both nationals and even though the knowledge of German is very high among young Danes.4 Another consideration was the question of which countries ought to be included for detailed cross-generational analysis and for the analysis of the probability of language choice.22 while the respective native languages rank lower (French at 0. Thus. Our own calculation of probabilities is based on a simple procedure which we will outline briefly. Based on the hypothesis and calculations outlined above. the probability that English will be used in personal contacts between young French and Germans is 0. Of course. Germany and the UK were included as the most populous countries in which the three languages considered here are spoken as native languages.64 6 1). to our knowledge. contexts in which the hypothesis outlined here might be close to reality: there are. This resulted in the consideration of only English. We offer these data as hypotheses. There are. While many more interesting language- related questions could have been asked. however. this constitutes the largest ever sampling concerning the foreign language abilities of Europeans. 1997 .

1/5/97 . not just reading storefront signs as a tourist) at a low level.7 The following abbreviation for a recurring data type will be used in the analysis: FLK refers to Foreign Languages Known. Spanish and Catalan in Spain) while the relationship between mother tongue and foreign languages in Luxembourg is in many ways very different from that in other European countries. Finland and/or Sweden as the survey was carried out prior to their becoming members of the EU. # Blackwell Publishers Ltd. As Figure 1 shows.. We believe that the purpose which this type of self- assessment serves is to give an indication of whether an individual feels able to manipulate a foreign language for interactive purposes (i. The Eurobarometer survey was conducted between April 4 and May 6. 1997 . of course. Finally. Among the youngest age group (15±24 years old). more than half of the people who started school around or before the end of the Second World War did not learn one single foreign language in school. This is the way we have used the label FLK (foreign languages known). In choosing the remaining three countries. however. my language or English? 7 Belgium. Coupled with the question on language learning it does. 1994. What is the reality behind this perception? The results from the Eurobarometer study can be considered as both good news and bad news. we excluded Ireland as the UK was already included as a country of mostly anglophone native speakers. and its exact overall sample was 13. The bad news is that there are still 11 percent of young people in the EU who have not received any foreign language instruction. The question that was asked of the survey participants was `Which of these languages (a list of all the official EU languages followed) can you speak well enough to take part in a conversation?' This is quite obviously a rather vague and subjective measure of one's own language proficiency. thus prompting a more conservative estimate.16:41 ± 96/89 ± WENG ± 89_2 ± SueH Your language.029 in the 12 member countries. The sample size per country was around 1. draw the respondents' attention to the issue of whether they are able to use the foreign languages they have learnt. speaking being defined as the self-assessed ability to take part in a conversation.000. Denmark was chosen over the Netherlands in order to include another small country (in terms of population).e. INCREASE IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE KNOWLEDGE ACROSS THE EUROPEAN UNION One frequently voiced complaint by politicians. except for Luxembourg (500). Greece was positively chosen as a country whose language is neither Romance nor Germanic. 4. Luxembourg and Spain as the particular linguistic make-up of each of these countries would have necessitated a consideration of data from separate parts of the countries which were not available to us (Dutch and French in the case of Belgium. while the inability to speak one has fallen from two-thirds to about one-third. The good news is that there has been a considerable decrease in the number of people who have neither learned a foreign language nor speak one. educators and business leaders alike is that not enough people are able to communicate in a foreign language. highly personal. and nearly two-thirds from that generation say that they cannot speak a foreign language. What one believes to be sufficient for participating in a conversation is.6 All results which refer to the EU as a whole are weighted on the basis of the adult population in each member country. these figures have been reduced from more than half to roughly one-tenth of people not having learnt a foreign language. The survey does not include any data from Austria.

This rise has not been to the detriment of the other two major foreign languages.1/5/97 . As far as Germany is concerned. of foreign language knowledge for each EU country (see Figure 2). which is mostly due to the increase of English (fivefold across the generations) overshadowing the rise in the knowledge of German. this does.8 Before we look at these results in terms of individual countries. Foreign languages learned and spoken The rise in foreign language knowledge has been most pronounced for English. Twice as many 15 to 24-year-olds have a knowledge of these two languages than 25 to 39-year-olds. While the general trend of increasing FLK is reflected in the particular data for each country. It can be seen that there are enormous differences between countries.e. French and German. However. This is firstly because East Germany's foreign language curriculum strongly emphasized Russian and secondly because East Germans used to have few opportunities to practise English or French. While the decrease of those without any # Blackwell Publishers Ltd. of course. the rate of young people who do not speak a foreign language is lower than in the UK.. In France. which has seen three to fourfold increases in learning and speaking. Although it is interesting to take a look at the EU as a whole. This makes their experience difficult to compare with West Germany's or that of the other Western European countries. even though the progress is admittedly eclipsed by the staggering rise of English.16:41 ± 96/89 ± WENG ± 89_2 ± SueH 8 Normand Labrie and Carsten Quell English English 100 100 French French 80 Germ an 80 Germ an in percent in percent none 65 60 64 none 60 55 54 53 46 40 39 39 40 41 34 33 32 35 27 20 21 18 22 18 21 20 21 19 10 14 11 11 14 13 10 8 6 7 9 0 0 55+ 40-54 25-39 15-24 55+ 40-54 25-39 15-24 Age groups Age groups Figure 1. all generational data conflated. i. however. which have gained ground. West Germans occupy very much the middle ground in their foreign language ability. Whereas Luxembourg. Denmark and the Netherlands occupy exemplary positions in terms of the multilingual abilities of their citizens. which has only doubled (see Figure 4). the differences in the extent of FLK between countries are striking. most other countries still have a higher value for the inability to speak a foreign language than for the ability to speak one. let us give a brief overview of the mean values. nearly half of the young people are unable to hold a conversation in a foreign language: a full two-thirds of those between the ages of 25 and 39 lack that ability. In general. 1997 . fudge the issue. we will only consider its Western part here. In the United Kingdom (see Figure 3). it is interesting to see that there has recently been a significant increase in the knowledge of both French and German.

Foreign languages known 9 . my language or English? countries E nglish F rench German other languages none of these languages Figure 2.16:41 ± 96/89 ± WENG ± 89_2 ± SueH 50 40 30 20 10 0 Your language. 100 90 # Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 1997 80 70 60 1/5/97 .

more than # Blackwell Publishers Ltd. At the other end of the spectrum. 1997 . the level of FLK in the oldest age group is already comparatively high. far outstrips the gains that French has made (see Figure 5). as in other countries as well. The increase in the knowledge of English. Foreign languages spoken (United Kingdom) 100 English 90 French 80 Germ an 70 69 none 62 in percent 60 55 50 51 40 38 30 30 24 20 10 11 11 5 6 6 0 55+ 40-54 25-39 15-24 Age groups Figure 4. Foreign languages spoken (France) ability is steady. presents a very different picture (see Figure 6). the first small country to be considered here.1/5/97 .16:41 ± 96/89 ± WENG ± 89_2 ± SueH 10 Normand Labrie and Carsten Quell 100 90 80 73 70 68 66 in percent 60 English 50 French 47 40 Germ an 38 30 none 20 21 18 15 17 10 8 4 5 0 55+ 40-54 25-39 15-24 Age groups Figure 3. with only one percent of the young people claiming not to know a foreign language well enough to have a conversation. There has been a striking reduction in the inability to speak a foreign language. Denmark.

1997 . presents us with the reverse picture of that of Denmark (see Figure 7).1/5/97 . Foreign languages spoken (West Germany) English 100 French 90 92 Germ an 87 80 none 70 67 64 in percent 60 59 50 44 43 40 36 30 29 24 20 10 10 9 11 4 6 0 1 55+ 40-54 25-39 15-24 Age groups Figure 6. Even though it is also a small country whose language is barely spoken beyond its borders. my language or English? 11 100 Englis h 90 French 80 Germ an 70 none in percent 60 61 50 52 40 42 37 30 31 20 20 22 19 13 15 10 8 6 0 55+ 40-54 25-39 15-24 Age groups Figure 5. Greece.16:41 ± 96/89 ± WENG ± 89_2 ± SueH Your language. a large part of the young population (42 percent) claim to be unable to speak # Blackwell Publishers Ltd. Foreign languages spoken (Denmark) nine out of ten young Danes are able to speak English while more than six out of ten also speak German. The gains of both these languages far outweigh the relatively minor advance made by French. on the other hand.

Italy is similar to Greece in that nearly half of the young people are unable to speak a foreign language (see Figure 8). 1997 .1/5/97 . however. Foreign languages spoken (Greece) English 100 French 90 81 Germ an 80 70 none 68 in percent 60 58 50 48 40 36 30 27 23 22 20 18 10 12 7 4 0 2 3 3 55+ 40-54 25-39 15-24 Age groups Figure 8. Both French and English started at about the same level and # Blackwell Publishers Ltd. Foreign languages spoken (Italy) any foreign language while English by far leads the field among those who do know a foreign language. in that it is not so clearly oriented towards English. It is different.16:41 ± 96/89 ± WENG ± 89_2 ± SueH 12 Normand Labrie and Carsten Quell 100 English 90 French 83 Germ an 80 78 none 70 60 60 in percent 53 50 40 42 33 30 20 15 10 10 5 4 6 4 6 3 0 55+ 40-54 25-39 15-24 Age groups Figure 7. Finally.

This section will take a closer look at the language that nationals from these two age groups are most likely to use when they interact with other EU nationals from the same age group.2 0 British-French British-German British-Danish British-Greek British-Italian Figure 9. among the younger people English has clearly taken the lead.20) (see Figure 9). The probability that French would be used in communication between British and other EU citizens (Germans. Greeks and Italians) is very low (0.10 and 0. Finally. i.16:41 ± 96/89 ± WENG ± 89_2 ± SueH Your language.6 0. Germany (West).e. and Italy) was calculated (see table `Probabilities' in the Appendix).07 respectively. then.8 French German 0. 5. French or German will be used in communication between pairs of nationals from two age groups (age 55 and older.04) and between Britons and Danes (0. 35 percent of encounters between British and Danish citizens and 20 percent of encounters between Britons and Germans could be managed using English as the language of communication. 1997 . English is the most likely choice in communication with speakers of other Germanic languages. France. Theoretically. Likely language choice between British and other Europeans (age 55+) # Blackwell Publishers Ltd. my language or English? 13 while French among the 40±54 age group is nearly twice as widely spoken as English. The estimate is based on the participants' own assessment of their ability to take part in a conversation in the different national languages. The British British citizens from the older generation (55 plus) appear to have fairly limited possibilities of interacting with other European citizens from the same age group.. Greece. French is most likely to be used between British and French citizens (0.35) and Germans (0. Denmark.11 for the use of English.1/5/97 . with Danes (0.01). compared to 0. German would be an option in some encounters between Britons and Germans (0. and age 15±24) from six EU countries (United Kingdom.4 0. Danes.15). PROBABILITIES OF USE OF ENGLISH.01). FRENCH AND GERMAN The probability that English. 1 English 0. The figures for interaction between Britons and Greeks and Britons and Italians are 0.

1/5/97 . 1997 . although the use of English is still a more likely choice in interaction with young French nationals. or.53) and Italians (0.11).36) (see Figure 10).06. Germans (0. to a much lesser extent. even with French nationals (0. with Germans 0. Greeks (0. English is an option for communication with Danes (0. The second most likely language to be used is English. The calculations are as follows: with the British 0. with French people using French.07.16:41 ± 96/89 ± WENG ± 89_2 ± SueH 14 Normand Labrie and Carsten Quell 1 English 0.18) and Danes (0. with Danes 0. in some cases. and with Greeks 0.15.09. German would be an option principally with Germans (0. or. # Blackwell Publishers Ltd.92). with Germans 0. with Greeks and Italians (0. will be used ranges from one- third of the interaction with the Italians to more than 90 percent with the Danes. to a lesser extent.03.54). with Danes 0.38). The probability that it would be spoken with Italians is 0. the language that is most likely to be used is French. The younger Britons are in a much better position to communicate with their fellow Europeans than the older generation. French is much less likely to be spoken than English.4 0. Likely language choice between young British and other young Europeans The younger generation of British citizens (14±25) possesses greater foreign language competence although English is the language that is most likely to be used in all types of interaction. the older generations of French nationals would have few possibilities to communicate with people of the same generation from other European countries (see Figure 11).11) and.04). be it with British nationals (0.04.6 0. some interaction is possible with other speakers of Germanic languages using English.2 0 British-French British-German British-Danish British-Greek British-Italian Figure 10. The probability that their mother tongue. with Danes (0.08. It should also be noted that the probability that French will be used with their French counterparts has more than doubled.02.61). In all cases. with Italians 0. The French Similarly.01).8 French German 0. The younger generation has a much broader communicative potential. English.04 and with Greeks 0. the French (0. Although the older generation has little scope to communicate with other Europeans of the same age group.

The likelihood that English would be used with young British people is 0.01).54.33).2 0 French-British French-German French-Danish French-Greek French-Italian Figure 11. 1997 . French would # Blackwell Publishers Ltd.6 0.05) and with Danes (0. Young French people are much more able to interact with other European nationals from the same age group.4 0.4 0. It is also a likely choice in interaction with Germans (0. primarily using English (see Figure 12).2 0 French-British French-German French-Danish French-Greek French-Italian Figure 12. French is the second most likely choice with most of these same nationality groups.50. and with Danes 0.1/5/97 .29) and Italians (0. Likely language choice between French and other Europeans (age 55+) 1 English 0. German would be a possible language choice only in communication with Germans (0.8 French German 0. Likely language choice between young French and other young Europeans Germans (0.8 French German 0.20).6 0. Greeks (0.16:41 ± 96/89 ± WENG ± 89_2 ± SueH Your language.02) and Greeks and Italians (both 0. my language or English? 15 1 English 0.02).

01). the French (0. i.07) and with Greeks (0. the British and Italians (both 0.2 0 German -British German-French German-Danish German-Greek German-Italian Figure 13.01).6 0. but also to the ability of other EU nationals to use German. but also in part to the increased capacity of its peers to converse in French. and to a much lesser extent with the British and Italians (0.02).33 for English and 0. Likely language choice between Germans and other Europeans (age 55+) # Blackwell Publishers Ltd.11. German is most likely to be used with the Danes (0.1/5/97 .01). The Germans Older Germans have limited opportunities regarding communication with their fellow Europeans.03) (see Figure 13). The older generation is most likely to communicate in French.. German could also be used with Danes (0. This is due mainly to its competence in English. The younger German generation has considerably increased its potential for commun- ication with its peers from other EU countries. Their increased proficiency in German also plays a role. French is not an option with the nationals from the remaining three countries. compared with 0.e.15).11). and Greeks (0. The younger generation is in a better position mainly due to its competence in English.29). It is most likely to be used in interaction with the French (0. it is dependent on the foreign language knowledge of its counterparts. Germans (0.06).20).38). Interaction is possible provided their counterparts have some knowledge of German.15 for French). Only in communication with Italians would French be the most likely language choice: 22 percent compared to 20 percent for English.08). The young French are more able to communicate with their European peers than the older generation. 1997 .16:41 ± 96/89 ± WENG ± 89_2 ± SueH 16 Normand Labrie and Carsten Quell be used to a relatively large extent with the British (0. German is in third position even with Germans (0. the Danes (0. Danes (0. to a lesser extent.22). Young Germans are 1 English 0. French is in third position. Italians (0. It is not an option for interaction between the French and the British or between the French and the Italians. with the French (0. but also.07).8 French German 0.05). English is also an option in interaction with the British (0. the Greeks (0.04) and with the Greeks (0.4 0.02) and the Italians (0.

Finally. English is most likely to be used with the British (0. 1997 .04).07). communication remains possible mainly through the use of English with Britons (0. or any other nationals. Greeks or Italians (0. the young generation has increased its possibilities mainly by acquiring English. and with the British (0. and is ahead of German (0. Greeks (0.8 French German 0. The Danes There has been a marked improvement among Danes with regard to their ability to communicate with other EU nationals. French is twice as likely to be used in communication among peers of the younger generation than among the older generation. It is the second most likely language choice after English for communication with French nationals (0.01). Likely language choice between young Germans and other young Europeans also more able to take part in conversations in French (see Figure 14).06). and through German with their neighbours in Germany (0.. While the older generation is very limited in its knowledge of foreign languages and mostly dependent on the other European nationals' knowledge of German. German would be the first option in encounters with Danes (0. English is an option with Germans (0.e.33).02) and Greeks (0. or the British (0.04) and Italians (0. the British.61) and Danes (0. Among the older generation.1/5/97 .4 0. Finally. i.56 for the use of English with Danes.15. my language or English? 17 1 English 0. Communication with all their EU counterparts remains relatively difficult. Danes (0.16:41 ± 96/89 ± WENG ± 89_2 ± SueH Your language. the French (0. French and Greeks (0.2 0 German -British German-French German-Danish German-Greek German-Italian Figure 14. Italians (0. compared to 0.06) and the Italians (0.29) (see Figure 15). The use of # Blackwell Publishers Ltd. Possibilities for interaction with Danes have increased due to the latter's increased knowledge of German.11).03). and Italians (0.01). young Germans have made enormous progress in their capacity to communicate with other EU nationals.11). German is an option with the French (0.18).22).03).02).56).35). Germans also benefit from their having acquired French. the Greeks (0.64). French is an option with the French (0. French is also an option with the British (0. Similar to the French. compared to 0. but also with the French (0.32). Communication in French would appear to be impossible with elderly people from the remaining three countries.02).01).6 0.33).

33).92). Likely language choice between Danish and other Europeans (age 55+) 1 English 0. i. German is # Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 0.1/5/97 .006 with older British people.50). all probability figures being lower than 0.2 0 Danish-British Danish-French Danish-German Danish-Greek Danish-Italian Figure 15. and 0. except for German in communication with young German nationals (see Figure 16). the Greeks (0.9 The situation has changed dramatically for the younger generation of Danes.000 with all the other groups. and the Italians (0.6 0. the French (0..8 French German 0. 0. the Germans (0.16:41 ± 96/89 ± WENG ± 89_2 ± SueH 18 Normand Labrie and Carsten Quell 1 English 0. 1997 .2 0 Danish-British Danish-French Danish-German Danish-Greek Danish-Italian Figure 16. Likely language choice between young Danish and other young Europeans Danish is not an option for the elderly Greeks.4 0.8 French German 0.6 0.e.007 with older Germans. English is the most likely language choice.49).01.56). The young Danes are likely to use English with the British (0.4 0.

The probability of it being used with French nationals is much lower than English (0. and 0. compared to 0.03).000 for all the others. and the Italians (0. It is the most likely language to be used in conversation with young Germans.e. It is no option at all with the nationals of the three remaining countries (0. However.02) and Greeks (0.03 with the French and 0.01 in all cases: 0. 1997 .11 compared with 0.10 for interaction with the British. i.01).07). the French (0. 1 English 0. since it is the second most likely language to be used.1/5/97 . The probability figure for the use of Danish with any other nationals is 0. but to a very small extent: 0. the British (0.02). Germans (0.000. and 0.6 0.e. French is in third position.4 0..00). communication among young- sters is possible primarily through English.01 with the British.2 0 Greek-British Greek-French Greek-German Greek -Danish Greek-Italian Figure 17.. Italians (0. While the older generation of Danes has limited options regarding communication with other EU nationals of the same generation.02 with the Germans. Their second option would be French.01 with the French and Italians (see Figure 17). Likely language choice between Greek and other Europeans (age 55+) # Blackwell Publishers Ltd. my language or English? 19 most likely to be used with Germans (0. the traditional role of German may still be observed among the younger generation. Their third option is German with Germans (0. the young generation has considerably increased its potential for communication with all Europeans. particularly with Britons.56 for English) and it is the second option in communication with most of the other nationality groups. The Greeks Older Greek people are unlikely to find a common language for communication with other EU nationals of the same age group. The use of Greek is not an option for the older Greeks in their interaction with EU nationals from the same age group since the probability figures are lower than 0. with the British (0.50) and relatively low in interaction with other nationals. the Greeks (0.11).04 with the Danes. followed by 0.03) and with Danes (0.64. i.003 with the British and Italians. 0.04).8 French German 0. English is most likely to be used but the figures are very low: 0.04).01). While the older generation is more at ease with German.16:41 ± 96/89 ± WENG ± 89_2 ± SueH Your language. but German cannot be used with nationals of the three other countries.

04). French can be used to the same extent with the French (0. This is due primarily to its knowledge of English. English is by far the most likely language to be used with their peers from all the other countries (see Figure 18).06). however.07). Germans and Greeks (see Figure 19). 1997 . It is extremely unlikely that Greek would be spoken between young Greeks and other Europeans since all probability figures are under 0.16:41 ± 96/89 ± WENG ± 89_2 ± SueH 20 Normand Labrie and Carsten Quell 1 English 0.02 with the Danes and 0.53). the British and the Germans (0. Their position is similar to that of young French people.01).8 French German 0. 0.29) and the Italians (0. The younger generation. although to a lesser extent. and 0. English and French are equally likely to be used.01 with the French.004 with the French.006 with the British. The probability that English will be used is 0. the Danes (0. although less likely than young Danes. German represents a third option. Similarly.008 with Italians.19).01: 0.01).6 0.1/5/97 . for instance. with figures # Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 0.06).49). Danes (0.02) and with young people from any of the other three countries (0. German and French can also be used with other EU nationals. but not with nationals from Denmark or Greece (0.000 with the other two groups. Likely language choice between young Greek and other young Europeans The younger generation of Greeks are much more likely to find a common language with their EU counterparts. the British and the French (0. The older generation of Greeks have virtually no possibilities to communicate with their EU counterparts.4 0. French is a possible language of communication with all the groups: with the French (0. has much more potential.2 0 Greek-British Greek-French Greek-German Greek -Danish Greek-Italian Figure 18.01). the British (0. The use of French and German is limited to communication with nationals of the respective countries.00).04) or Danes (0. The Italians Older Italians also have rather limited possibilities to communicate with EU nationals from the same age group. 0.01). the Germans (0.07 with the British. Italian is in fourth position. German is an option for communication with Germans (0.32). It cannot be used in interaction with young Italians. the French (0. but is restricted to interaction with Germans (0. It is likely to be used with the British (0.

007 with the Danes and 0.2 0 Italian-British Italian-French Italian-German Italian-Danish Italian-Greek Figure 20. my language or English? 21 1 English 0.2 0 Italian-British Italian-French Italian-German Italian-Danish Italian-Greek Figure 19.16:41 ± 96/89 ± WENG ± 89_2 ± SueH Your language.8 French German 0. The younger generation of Italians is in a better position to communicate with its peers from other EU countries.009 with the Greeks.025 with the French. 0. Likely language choice between young Italians and other young Europeans such as 0. Germans (0. The figures are as follows: # Blackwell Publishers Ltd.1/5/97 .006 with the Germans. French (0.36).6 0.19).6 0. and Greeks (0. Young Italians can rely on English for commun- ication with the British (0.33).20). Likely language choice between Italians and other Europeans (age 55+) 1 English 0.4 0.026 with the British.4 0. Danes (0. but to a lesser degree than most of the other young nationals examined in this paper (see Figure 20).8 French German 0. 0.22). 0. French is the second most likely language to be used. 1997 .

e. we have attempted to show that the future of communication between Europeans is unlikely to consist of an English-only Europe. this holds true for many other young Europeans as well. For other languages. The truth is more complex. Italian is not an option in communication with young Danes (0. especially with the French (0. As a result. German is in fourth position.22). CONCLUSION Through the analysis of data from a large-scale European public survey. those who have seen the greatest increase in their potential for finding a common language for communication are the British and the Danes.16:41 ± 96/89 ± WENG ± 89_2 ± SueH 22 Normand Labrie and Carsten Quell with the French (0. on the other hand. knowledge of English predominates every- where. A major development can be observed among the younger generation where there has been a surge in the opportunities for commun- ication. the spread of English clearly serves their own interests). German. also represent an option for communication. The older generation of Italians has a limited ability to interact with other Europeans of the same generation because of its lack of knowledge of English and French and. Although knowledge of French and German has increased considerably. with Germans and Danes (0.03) and with Greeks (0. Opportunities ought to be created which will show young Europeans that languages other than English. Italian is also an option for the younger Italian generation. Students need little encouragement to study English as its utility is so clearly evident.02) and British (0. the difference between the two is quite obvious. the increased knowledge of French and German seems to be restricted to communication between nationals from the corresponding countries. especially those which are native to one of the interlocutors involved. Italian can be used to a small degree and German even less so. it is obvious that language spread does not imply any # Blackwell Publishers Ltd. Germans (0.. while English is generally the first option with all nationals (see `Probabilities' table in the Appendix) including French and German. Their Danish counterparts.016). nor will multilingualism flourish simply because of greater opportunities for contact. However. Danes (0. The younger generation has increased its potential for communication mainly due to a greater proficiency in English.015). It can be used with the Germans (0. as demonstrated in the first part of this paper. on the other hand.03). Although to a lesser extent than for the Danes. Among the younger generation. this is achieved despite the fact that nearly half of them do not speak any foreign language (i. with the British (0. 7.01). The teaching of English is clearly a response to the worldwide appeal of that language.052).01).1/5/97 . a conscious effort may be required to ensure that their popularity does not wane completely in the face of English.09). Discussion The comparison between the two age groups regarding language ability shows that the older generation has rather limited options.01). have achieved the same potential for communication by making the deliberate effort of learning a second language. to a lesser extent. 1997 .00). While the young Britons can now communicate with a large proportion of other Europeans. and British (0. but also to a more widespread knowledge of French. Foreign language education both responds to pressures of the linguistic market and is involved in its creation. From the data available on the probability of language choice in communication among nationals of the European Union. but also with the Greeks (0.

As part of the partnerships between towns across Europe. From youth to senior citizens' groups. my language or English? 23 kind of `reciprocity. Ideally. English has benefited most from this development. networks across Europe are being created as part of the increased integration among nations which require people to communicate with one another. It is under these circumstances that the type of contact situation among ordinary Europeans will arise. French and German. there will be a much higher percentage of Italian-speaking Germans than in the general German population. Of course. We need to know whether our predictions are borne out by reality. language spread favours the emergence of linguae francae. It is as a result of the efforts made by the latter that an increase in the capacity to communicate has been achieved. and among the many Germans who go to Italy each year. public awareness of the linguistic challenges of European integration and a concerted political effort to tackle an issue which has for too long been regarded as a political minefield and consequently ignored. but rather by necessity. are in a very different position from those belonging to smaller linguistic communities. a Dutch youngster may suddenly find himself playing football against Spanish youngsters. 1997 . and appears to be emerging as the lingua franca. while ignoring linguistic issues may come back to haunt us.1/5/97 . There are many occasions when Europeans come together in conferences or meetings for professional. from academic conferences to sports clubs.16:41 ± 96/89 ± WENG ± 89_2 ± SueH Your language. political or other reasons. Anecdotal and unrepresentative evidence will not suffice if we wish to obtain a true understanding of the linguistic dynamics. It requires monitoring of current linguistic trends through research. However. our study will now have to be followed up by field work. Speakers whose language is being learned on a large scale. Which other factors besides foreign language knowledge determine which languages are chosen in a given setting? Researchers will have to approach these questions very carefully. An equitable and mutually acceptable solution of the communication challenges which lie ahead for Europe's future in the next century will not come about effortlessly. Investing in multilingualism means investing in a peaceful and democratic future for all of Europe. People are confronted with each other without any particular interest and knowledge about their respective languages and cultures. which has formed the basis for our study here.' On the contrary. language contact very often does not arise by choice. much more so than French and German. such as English. there may be some Greeks who interact with Danes in Greek or Danish. # Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

16:41 ± 96/89 ± WENG ± 89_2 ± SueH APPENDIX 1 Foreign languages spoken: means of individual countries and EU as a whole (in percent) Belgium Denmark Germany Germany Germany Greece Spain France Ireland Italy Luxembourg The Portugal United EU 12 (W) (all) (E) Netherlands Kingdom English 34 68 40 35 16 25 13 30 0 19 46 71 20 0 25 French 30 8 11 9 2 4 9 0 14 17 89 16 20 21 13 German 15 47 0 0 0 5 1 7 4 3 88 60 1 8 8 Other 2 5 3 4 11 3 11 3 11 1 0 4 1 3 4 languages None of 46 21 30 32 38 68 60 55 59 65 2 13 68 65 51 these languages . 1997 1/5/97 .# Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

shows that only 12 percent of the interviewees had learned the foreign languages they needed at work while they were at school or university.02 0.04 0.33 0.03 Italian-Danish 0. conducted among 87 management employees in international firms in the French-speaking part of Belgium.00 0.15 0.61 0. Having learned a foreign language does not guarantee that one will be able to use it in a conversation.11 0.02 0.03 0.04 0.54 0.01 0.01 0.08 0.29 0.00 German-British 0.53 0.02 British-German 0.11 0.20 0.01 0.01 0. 15 percent while they were working in foreign countries.03 0.04 0.29 0.04 Greek-Italian 0.01 0.01 0.64 German-Greek 0.00 0.00 0.07 French-Greek 0.01 Greek-French 0.04 0.01 0.61 0.02 0.07 0.00 0. 51 percent indicated they learned the foreign languages `sur le tas' (on the job).04 0.01 0. It is therefore impossible to draw conclusions on foreign language knowledge based on foreign language learning only.00 0.64 Danish-Greek 0.01 0.20 0.00 0.22 0.92 0.00 0.01 Greek-German 0.01 0.00 Italian-British 0.22 0.11 Danish-French 0.53 0. # Blackwell Publishers Ltd.15 0.01 British-Italian 0.04 0. and 2 percent through courses in interpreting.00 0.02 0.02 Greek-British 0.00 NOTES 1.03 0.04 0.01 0.56 0.00 0. Of those interviewed.02 0.00 Italian-German 0.01 0.01 0.03 0.04 0.08 0.01 0.00 0.02 0.38 0.22 0.06 0.01 0.00 0.49 0. a recent survey by Eraly (1995).01 0.03 0.04 0.05 0.18 German-French 0.01 0.06 0.06 0.18 British-Danish 0.01 0.04 Danish-Italian 0.07 0.01 0.00 0. 5 percent because they lived in a foreign country.15 0.09 0. 12 percent within the family context (mixed couples).04 0.01 French-British 0.11 German-Danish 0.02 Italian-Greek 0. my language or English? 25 APPENDIX 2 Probability that English.02 0.04 0. 25 percent while receiving training abroad.01 0.15 0.01 0.01 0.50 0.07 0.11 0.06 0.36 0.19 0.11 French-Danish 0.00 0.02 0.20 0.54 0.01 0.22 0.02 0.07 0.32 0.33 0.92 0.00 0.00 0.50 0.07 0.00 0.05 0.07 0.00 0.03 0.1/5/97 .09 0.32 0.29 0.01 Italian-French 0. French or German will be used in contact of pairs of nationals from six EU countries for two age groups Oldest group (age 55+ years) Young people (age 15±24 years) English French German English French German British-French 0.00 0.00 0.03 Danish-British 0.10 0.56 0.11 British-Greek 0.01 0.29 0.02 0.01 0.00 0.04 0.33 0.01 0.01 0.01 0.49 0.35 0. 16 percent because they took evening classes on their own.19 0.06 German-Italian 0.02 0.38 0. Although the idea that foreign language learning is achieved mainly through schooling is generally accepted.36 0.00 0.33 0.16:41 ± 96/89 ± WENG ± 89_2 ± SueH Your language.06 Greek-Danish 0.02 0.02 French-German 0. 20 percent through special training offered by the company. 1997 .03 0.01 0.10 0.01 0.11 0.03 0.35 0.07 Danish-German 0.20 0.00 0.01 French-Italian 0.

With an outlook on possible solutions to the European language problems. (Received 15 April 1996. 1997 .) (1990) Language Spread and Social Change. European Commission (1994) Eurobarometer. Robert (1992) Linguistic Imperialism. le francËais et l'Europe. Phillipson. 41.1/5/97 . Anatoli (1994) Englisch als die einzige Verkehrssprache des zukuÈnftigen Europa? Eine Stellung- nahme aus osteuropaÈischer Sicht.5% ‹ 2. In Language Spread. 8. 8. 101±116. 25±45. QueÂbec: International Centre for Research on Bilingualism. OdeÂric. (Eds. Portuguese 1 percent. Robert and Skutnabb-Kangas.002. only a partial picture of the results is presented. Paris: Presses de la Sorbonne Nouvelle. 5. Paris: Honore Champion. Alain (1995) L'Usage du FrancËais dans les Entreprises en Belgique.058. Louise (1994) RepeÁres Sociolinguistiques pour l'Enseignement des Langues: Les Situations Plurilingues. Denmark = 1. Language Problems and Language Planning. 8. Unpublished M. Luxembourg: European Commission. 31±36. Quell. The confidence limits for sample sizes of about 1.000. Dynamics and Measurement. Portugal = 1. 228. Cooper.9% ‹ 2. Labrie. Truchot. Tove (1994) English. the Netherlands = 1.A. Paris: Payot.000. Conseil de la langue francËaise. Grant D.001. 41 (July 1994). weniger Sprachen? Die Sprachen der EuropaÈischen Institutionen zwischen Anspruch und Wirklichkeit. so percentages do not simply add up to 100. 8. Germany (West) = 1. Northern Ireland = 306. 5±36. Edited by Fernand Carton and J. The numbers of participants from individual countries are as follows: Belgium = 1. Carsten (1995) Die EuropaÈische Union 1995 ± Mehr LaÈnder.0% ‹ 3.028. REFERENCES Ammon. 1±14. Haberland. Normand (1993) La Construction Linguistique de la Communaute EuropeÂenne. Our assumption that this indicates probability of use is based on the idea that having a common language is the most basic requirement for communication to take place. It does not refer to the absence of knowledge of English. thesis. In Figures 2±8. Luxembourg = 500. 9. Sociolinguistica. Sociolinguistica.) # Blackwell Publishers Ltd. Quell. M. Eraly. Lorne and McConnell. France = 996. 73±87. Domaschnew. 8. that mean data for all EU countries is given in the next section. pp. Greece = 1. Laforge. Figures concerning the use of Dutch. please refer to the Tables in the Appendix. 3. Note.16:41 ± 96/89 ± WENG ± 89_2 ± SueH 26 Normand Labrie and Carsten Quell 2. Martine (1989) Rapport sur l'Apprentissage des Langues EÂtrangeÁres et sur la Situation du FrancËais dans les Onze Pays Partenaires de la France au sein de la Communaute EÂconomique EuropeÂenne. Storti. Germany (East) = 1. Edited by R. Calvet. 7.' They are included here for comparison only. 6.055.7 % ‹ 3. Dutch 1 percent. The category none refers to the fact that no foreign language was learnt or is spoken at all.000 are as follows for the following observed percentages: Observed percentages: 10% or 90% 20% or 80% 30% or 70 % 40% or 60 % 50% Confidence limits: ‹ 1. Hartmut and Henriksen. (1982) A framework for the study of language spread. Sociolinguistica. 85±98. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Carol (1991) DaÈnisch ± Eine kleine sprache in der EG. 26±43. Ireland = 1. QueÂbec: Conseil de la langue francËaise. les diffeÂrences. The figures for ability to use the other languages in a conversation were as follows: Spanish 5 percent. Le francËais dans le monde. Italian 2 percent. Paris: MinisteÁre des Affaires eÂtrangeÁres. Cooper. Carsten (1993) Perspectives on European language contact ± with special emphasis on a survey investigating language use in the European Commission. Robert L. GeÂrard (1994) Le programme europeÂen Lingua. Louis-Jean (1987) La Guerre des Langues et les Politiques Linguistiques. panacea or pandemic. however. Spain = 1. Great Britain = 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press. l'anglais. Italy = 1. Greek and Italian are not included in Figures 9±20 or in the table `Probabilities. Our calculations essentially indicate the amount of overlap between foreign language knowledge of an age group from one country with the foreign language knowledge or the mother tongue of the same age group from another country. 15±25. Phillipson. L. For details on the foreign languages spoken in individual European countries as well as the probabilities of language choice. Druesne. In Les Langues dans l'Europe de Demain. DabeÁne. 4. Weinrich.000. Danish and Greek 0 percent each. FrancËois (1993) European economic integration and the fate of lesser used languages. Claude (1994) La France. Harald (1989) Les langues.051. Sociolinguistica. pp.004.1% The above information only pertains to the data obtained directly from Eurobarometer and does not apply to our calculations of probability.028. Grin. Germanistische Mitteilungen. 5 (Statut et fonction des langues dans les organes de la Communaute europeÂenne). Ulrich (1994) The present dominance of English in Europe. 17(2). Paris: Hachette. Langue et mondialisation: enjeux et deÂfis pour le francËais. French or German. Sociolinguistica.